The Royal “We”

When I was learning to speak and write in English my mom taught me about a concept that is called the royal We. The idea is very ingenious and was coined by monarchs and persons of high influence to speak on behalf of the organization, estate, state or government they represent when in fact they are only referring to their involvement or themselves. In a way, the use of the plural pronoun is used to make the figure head seem humble while reminding folks that they hold the power even if others do the job especially since everything they say or commit to do is in actuality accomplished by other people.

My mom used the royal we to include all of those she was are representing; us as a family, her workgroup. As the leader we knew she was talking about a group effort she spearheaded but didn’t actually execute alone. When at home, if she told us we needed to clean up she meant us not her. It’s somewhat of a bastardization of the concept but it is the coloquial use that most people give to this phrase. As a head of this household/office/group I dictate or command you all to do x,y,z on my behalf. Worked wonderfully too.

I tend to use the royal we a lot in this context. Every opportunity I get to volunteer my time or lead an effort I take the pronoun out for a spin. People recognize that as the head honcho you won’t have the time to do everything yourself so the use of we gives equity in the enterprise. If you possess and weild true power and influence stuff gets done faster when you use we because it energizes the team and moves them to action in honor of their “regent”. No one wants the endeavor to fail when they have a stake. Most hardworking folks find it extremely rude when the person in charge uses I all the time, especially if it was a group effort. The royal we serves to give credit where credit is due. However, don’t assume that because you put the accountability on everyone involved you aren’t responsible for failures. Some tasks will still need your undivided attention, clear assingment, and motivation to get things accomplished.

The next time you hear someone in power or charge use the pronoun we, think of what it implies and of who will be effectively doing the hard work: the people behind the figurehead. Maybe Queen Victoria was aware that by stating “We are not amused” she was also speaking for her country and all those she represented. Her opinion reigning supreme over all of her subjects. As a regent, everyone will look up to you for support, advice and action. As peasants, it is our job to validate that the leader truly represents us and if not, find someone who does. Act wisely.

 

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